20 February 2019

Hundreds of sticky dots are proving the key to understanding air quality issues in the Mount Industrial area. The sticky dots capture air samples at eight hourly intervals, helping Bay of Regional Council to identify contaminants, potential sources and to develop options for improvement.

Regional Council Regulatory Compliance Manager Stephen Mellor explains that importantly the nine new monitors, which are spread throughout the Mount Industrial area, are able to monitor fine dust particles called PM10. Annually the total cost to run them is around $500,000.

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Small wide angle Mt Maunganui

Close-up of the sticky dot sample.

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Particle monitoring instrument tape.

small image of particle

Individual particle.

“In total we’ve now got thirteen monitors in this area giving us a really good insight into what's in our air here. When we get a spike that exceeds the safe limits set by the National Environmental Standards these are investigated and if necessary the samples are sent to an independent laboratory where a microscope isolates the various particles that are present,” he says.

“Once we have the results, we can work backwards looking at wind conditions, the activities that are within that scope and other contributing factors.”

Mr Mellor says the new monitoring stations use cutting-edge technology and have been introduced in response to concerns from local residents, especially around the Aerodrome Road, Totara Street and Whareroa marae areas.

Since being installed, there have been six PM10 (fine dust) and four sulphur dioxide (SO2) exceedances.

Mr Mellor says although it’s great to see the council’s investment in monitoring providing results, the exceedances are unacceptable.

“We knew there was an air quality issue in the Mount Industrial area, but up until recently, we have not had the evidence to prove this. We now have a better understanding of what the issue looks like, which means we can address it."

“The monitoring and testing process is not cheap or fast, but it is helping us better understand the local air environment – and ultimately to help support local communities."

“Residents in Mt Maunganui – and the wider Bay of Plenty – are the envy of many people around New Zealand. Many have lived here for generations, while others choose to live here because of the lifestyle our region has to offer."

“But this area has also changed dramatically over the past few decades, and it has grown significantly, even in the last few years. Our role as a regional council is to look after and monitor our environment, so that it can be enjoyed by everyone, including the generations to come,” he says.

Mr Mellor says this means some industries may need to do things slightly differently in the future, in order to achieve better air quality outcomes.

Critical to improving air quality in this area is the strengthening of the air quality management rules. Yesterday this got one step closer with Regional Councillors approving Proposed Plan Change 13 for the Regional Natural Resources Plan. Some of the new rules include: 

  • Consent requirement for large scale handling of bulk solid materials that can create dust nuisance.
  • Stricter rules and clearer definition of methyl bromide recapture requirements.
  • More specific permitted activity rules for the handling and storage of cement, flaring of natural gas and use of mobile or emergency generators.